This Shattered Scene
To live is like the silent, grasping breath:
a plume of smoke fading into the sky
like the stuttered, staggered, stunted death
of a butterfly in glass. The low sigh
of a moaning wind. The old empty dreams
rattle like tin-cans on faded playgrounds,
old photographs shredded to ripping seams,
old letters now nothing but empty sounds
mouthed to an unmoving night. Endless Flight
to wherever I’m running tonight. Scream
echoed goddess, a shadow made of lights.
I’m running through this shattered scene.
By RA, May 24th, 2003
May 24th, 2003. To give some context: this was the day of my last examination before I left high school. I don’t remember the subject. May has always been a strange month for me – a month of reflection and ultimate sadness, although I don’t know why. I’ve always been irrepressibly sad in May.
This poem is the first one I have chosen to publish, primarily because it is one of the earliest poems I have on record, but also because of it’s content. It is a poem written about the transition I was facing in my life at the time – leaving high school, going through a break-up with my first love, and facing the prospect of college life.
I was ultimately totally unprepared and uncertain about going away to University: the course I eventually settled on was more out of default than anything else, and I have always felt as though I should have been educated somewhere else. Without sounding snobbish, somewhere better. But I was not really advised as to where the “good” universities were, and so I just randomly selected courses from a list and applied. My grades were good enough to afford me acceptance into any school and, although the university I ended up at was a very respectable school, I always felt as though I would have been more enthusiastic about another path. Very few people are aware of this, but in my second semester of my first year I was mere days of leaving my course and applying for other schools. The thing that changed my mind? A new boyfriend. A history my life is doomed to repeat, I think!
This poem, when I read it back, tells me the story of the place I found myself in at that time. I truly felt as though everything I had known was disintegrating before my eyes, and that the future was completely unknown and ultimately a poor substitute. In my final 18-months of high school I found an identity and sense of acceptance that I had not felt before, and that I have strived for since then – a group of people who actually really liked me, who thought I had potential, and to whom my awkward teenage appearance was irrelevant. Leaving it behind was a terribly transition, and this poem reflects that.
For me, personally, this poem also rings of the sense of guilt I was haunted by – a permanent and obvious feeling I had betrayed my childhood self. Of course, looking back, I had done no such thing, but I always felt such a debt to the strange, bookish child I had grown from, as though I needed to prove something.
NB: “playground” in England is a term applied for school yards. The theme of shattering is one that reflects consistently through my poems, but it started here.